Binge drinking is a risky practice that involves consuming excessive amount of alcohol in a relatively short time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that binge drinking causes a person’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) to rise to 0.08 percent or higher and is described as an occasion when an individual has at least 4-5 drinks during a two-hour period.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIDA) defines one “drink” as the consumption of any of the following:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 oz. of wine
- 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits (liquor)
Binge Drinking Facts
Binge drinking is most common among persons aged 26 and older. It is estimated that this group accounts for about 70 percent of all binge drinking incidents. For some, particularly those using prescription medications or illicit drugs, it may take less alcohol consumption to achieve a BAC that would be considered to qualify as binge drinking.
A single binge-drinking episode does not necessarily imply the individual has an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Repeated incidents of binge drinking do, however, significantly increase the likelihood that the person who is engaging in this practice will develop an alcohol use disorder. The transformation from occasional binge drinking to full-blown alcohol addiction can transpire quickly, and significant health effects and other severe consequences are likely to follow.
Most people (an estimated 80%) who admit to binge drinking on surveys are not chemically dependent on alcohol. Nevertheless, binge drinking instances account for the highest percentage of alcohol use deaths. Because alcoholism is such an insidious disorder, binge drinking, if left unaddressed and unmanaged, threatens to take over an individual’s life and could eventually lead to severe complications and death.
In the United States, binge drinking has become increasingly common despite accumulating research that reveals just how serious it can be. Unfortunately, alcohol use is socially acceptable and sometimes applauded in many cultures, including America.
Side Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking has been associated with various health and behavioral issues. While most side effects are relatively mild and short-term, others can lead to irreversible damage. Shorter-term side effects of binge drinking may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Impaired coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Impaired cognition
Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol within a brief period puts one at risk for many health issues and trauma. For instance, alcohol is notorious for reducing a driver’s response time, putting them and other drivers and passengers in danger.
Also, heavy alcohol use impairs decision-making abilities. It increases impulsiveness, placing one at risk for accidental injuries, including those involving dangerous stunts, domestic violence, sexual assault, and alcohol poisoning.
Repeated bouts of binge drinking over an extended period can result in many chronic complications and would likely diagnosable as alcohol use disorder (AUD.) These may include brain damage, cardiac problem, liver disease, and an increased risk of stroke and several cancers.
Four Ways to Stop Binge Drinking
Binge drinking can be lethal in and of itself and may result in alcohol use disorder. You should take steps to cut down or quit drinking altogether before it severely affects your life. The following are four ways on how to stop binge drinking:
1. Devise a plan and write it down.
Write down the reasons you need to reduce or stop drinking alcohol. Note the potential consequences of continuing destructive behavior, such as alcohol poisoning, motor vehicle accidents, unplanned pregnancy, sexual assault, arrest, financial issues, health complications, and more.
Go over your list often, especially if you feel the desire to drink. If you’re planning to cut back rather than abstain, keep track of how much you drink, where you are, the individuals you’re with, and your emotions when drinking in a journal.
2. Alter your environment.
Triggers resulting in binge drinking often include places, people, and specific events. While you’re starting to manage your drinking behavior, you may need to avoid bars, clubs, parties, or other activities you know will center around heavy drinking. You may need to avoid significant time with certain people or groups who focus on using alcohol for fun.
You may find it helpful to avoid these triggers permanently. If you decide to go to a bar or party, don’t play drinking games. Games cause you to drink excessively, too fast, and you may not realize how much you have ingested. Limit yourself to one drink an hour at most, and have a non-alcoholic drink, such as water, in between those with alcohol.
3. Rely on loved ones for support.
Confide in those who support your decision to reduce or abstain from alcohol use. Ideally, persons in your support system drink little or no alcohol and don’t rely on alcohol to have fun. They help keep you accountable for your behavior and on track with your desire to stop binge drinking.
Ensure your support system includes a person you can call at any hour to help you through cravings or triggers. If you plan to attend an event in which alcohol will be served, take a trusted support person with you, and make sure you have access to non-alcoholic drinks.
4. Abstinence may very well be your best approach.
It may be easier and more prudent for you to abstain from alcohol rather than try to cut down on consumption. This is especially true if someone has AUD. Educate yourself about alcoholism and binge drinking. Attend local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or other alcohol support groups for important information.
If you don’t think you have a full-fledged disorder but want to gather information for yourself or someone else, attend an open meeting. Visit the Alcoholics Anonymous website for information on finding local or online meetings.
Treatment for Binge Drinking
It is worth restressing that while binge drinking does not necessarily equate to full-blown alcoholism, it can be just as hazardous. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in a brief period can severely compromise a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What’s more, heavy alcohol use not only affects the person drinking but is also likely to intrude on the lives of family and friends and produce a neverending ripple of adverse effects.
Those who regularly engage in binge drinking are urged to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer a multifaceted, research-based approach. Our programs feature vital therapeutic services, such as behavioral therapy, relapse prevention, substance abuse education, individual and family counseling, peer group support, and aftercare planning.